The meaning of your communication lies in the response you get (Bodenhammer and Hall, The user’s manual for the brain, Crown House, 2000, p79).
A well known NLP presupposition, of course (well known to NLP people, that is). But is it actually correct?
It’s an important point if what one is communicating is a story, often laden with metaphor.
Bodenhammer and Hall say, “Regardless of your intent in communication, the response you get indicates what you communicated to the other person”. I have always understood this is because the other person has their own set of presuppositions, beliefs, level of intelligence, understanding of the language, etc etc. All these things modulate what they hear and create what they receive.
But when the other person says something back to you, the very same process applies. You cannot know what the other person intended to communicate (which was based on what they received) because your reception of what they say is itself modulated by your own set of presuppositions, beliefs, level of intelligence, understanding of the language and other factors of your own.
Bodenhammer and Hall avoid the issue somewhat by saying, “The response of the person with whom we communicate reflects the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of our communication”.
This isn’t very helpful because it does not say how the communication was ineffective. Effectiveness, or lack thereof, is described by the comprehensibility of the communication to each particular other person. If you speak to me beautifully in Danish, it won’t be at all effective (however effective it might be to a native speaker) because, despite Borgen and The killing, I don’t have any fluency in the language.
However, it does enable us to say rather more neatly than I did above: “The response of the person with whom we communicate reflects the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of our communication to them; and our reception of that response reflects the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of their communication to us”.
Wouldn’t a more accurate, and therefore more useful formulation, be: “The meaning of a message is what the recipient makes of it”?
With apologies to Gary Larsen for nicking his cartoon